Leaf blowers CFM or MPH: What matters more?

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If you are looking to buy a new blower online or from a store you might have noticed that new leaf blowers come with CFM and MPH ratings. While most of us are familiar with the cc (cubic capacity) of a gas leaf blower or voltage rating of an electric leaf blower, the CFM and MPH ratings can cause a fair bit of confusion to potential buyers. Everyone knows that MPH stands for Miles per hour but leaf blowers aren’t exactly a vehicle so how come they have an MPH rating? And which one of these two ratings should matter more?

Leaf blowers are advertised with two primary ratings that tell the shoppers about the leaf blower’s capability:

  • CFM stands for cubic feet per minute and it tells us the volume of air that comes out of the leaf blower’s nozzle in one minute.
  • MPH stands for miles per hour and it tells us how fast the air comes out of the leaf blower nozzle.

Both CFM and MPH ratings of a leaf blower are important and should be considered when buying a leaf blower. But leaf blowers with a higher CFM can make the task of blowing leaves very easy.

Leaf blowers CFM or MPH: What matters more? 1

While you can’t simply focus on one rating and ignore the other, there are some situations where one rating matters more than the other. And in this article, we are going to explain the main differences between these two ratings and which one you should focus on more based on your needs.

CFM of a leaf blower

Leaf blowers blow out air that lets you get rid of leaves with ease. CFM or cubic feet per minute is often ignored by buyers when they are looking for a leaf blower. But as a matter of fact, CFM is an equally important metric to consider if not more important than MPH. If you want to have an idea about how much air a leaf blower puts out, then CFM is the metric you need to look at. For example, if a leaf blower has a CFM rating of 300 CFM it means that it will blow 300 cubic feet of air every minute while it is running. CFM also tells you how much debris and leaves can you blow using a leaf blower and how wide the blow of air is going to spread. You are also going to notice that leaf blowers with higher CFM ratings have wider nozzles while the ones with lower CFM ratings have narrow nozzles. That is because a larger volume of air requires a wider nozzle to pass through and blow out.

If you want to know how strong the air that is blown from a particular leaf blower is going to be, then you need to look at the CFM rating of that leaf blower. More volume of air coming out of a nozzle means you should be able to blow the debris further.  So to summarize everything, you can take the CFM rating of a leaf blower as the ability of a leaf blower to push leaves using the airflow it produces. But CFM alone can’t tell you everything about a leaf blower when buying one, which is why you have to look at the MPH rating of a leaf blower as well.

MPH of a leaf blower

MPH is the more familiar metric for measuring a leaf blower’s performance. The MPH rating of a leaf blower represents the speed at which air comes out of the nozzle. Most people only look at the MPH rating of a leaf blower and think a higher MPH equals more power but that can’t be further from the truth. Because even if the air is coming out of the leaf blower nozzle at the speed of 200 MPH, if the volume of air is low let’s say 100 CFM, then you won’t be able to push any leaves because there is just not enough air coming out of the leaf blower. Normally a leaf blower with a narrow nozzle has a higher MPH rating because air travels faster through narrow spaces compared to wide ones. But with a narrow nozzle, the amount of air coming out of the leaf blower is reduced.

CFM vs. MPH which one matters more in a leaf blower?

When it comes to which one is more important it would be wrong to say you can ignore either one because both of these metrics go hand in hand when it comes to assessing a leaf blower’s capabilities. While CFM rating of a leaf blower is a little more significant compared to MPH rating, a decent MPH rating along with a decent CFM makes a leaf blower an ideal choice. Think of it this way even if you have a leaf blower with 500 CFM if all this volume of air is not coming out of the leaf blower at a decent speed you will not be able to push any leaves. Similarly, even if you have a leaf blower that is throwing air at a speed of 500MPH but there is no air volume coming out of the nozzle no leaf blowing is going to happen in this case either. So a healthy balance of CFM and MPH is needed for efficient leaf blowing.

What is an ideal CFM and MPH rating?

There is no fixed rule for how much CFM and MPH a leaf blower should have, instead, both of these ratings depend completely on how and where you intend on using the leaf blower. Some leaf blowers are going to have a higher MPH rating but a lower CFM rating while others might be completely opposite. So you have to pick the leaf blower as per the size of the area and the type of debris you want to push. Below are some general guidelines about how much CFM rating a leaf blower should have according to the size of the land it is going to be used on:

  • 200 to 500 CFM: This is a decent CFM range if you intend to use the leaf blower in an urban setting and the area you are going to use your leaf blower in is under an acre. A leaf blower with up to 500 CFM rating is going to provide enough airflow to blow a decent volume of leaves with ease. At the same time, a leaf blower in this CFM range will be easy to handle around confined spaces. Leaf blowers under 500 CFM are usually handheld making them perfect for small areas such as patios, lawns, and backyards. Generally, handheld leaf blowers have an MPH rating of around 100 MPH which is a great combination for this CFM range. Almost all of the leaf blowers in this range are battery powered cordless units which means you can only use them for a fixed amount of time until you run out of battery. But with an area under an acre, you will notice that a battery-powered leaf blower provides enough battery life to get the job done.
  • 500-800 CFM: If you have a bigger yard with an area well above an acre in size, then you will have to look for a leaf blower with a CFM rating upwards of 500 CFM. Because as the area to be cleaned gets bigger so does the amount of debris that needs to be pushed. Not to mention with a bigger yard you will be pushing leaves for longer distances to clean the area. Therefore you need higher CFM to tackle this situation. Leaves tend to pile up quickly in a larger yard, which means the leaf blower is going to be pushing heavier debris so any leaf blower under 500 CFM rating is going to make the job really difficult in a yard that is well over an acre in size. So it is recommended to buy a leaf blower with a CFM rating of around 650 CFM and with an MPH rating above 200 MPH for a bigger yard. You can get a leaf blower with up to 800 CFM range as well if you want to but it is going to be more expensive. Of course, you can’t expect this kind of performance from a battery-powered leaf blower which is why all the leaf blowers in this CFM range are either electric or gas-powered. You can run these leaf blowers for longer to cover larger yards with ease.  
  • 1000-3000 CFM: Leaf blowers in this CFM range are the big boys of the leaf blower world and they are usually meant for commercial usage. Contractors use these blowers to clean large spaces such as stadiums, roads, and concert venues where more CFM means quicker cleaning.
Leaf blowers CFM or MPH: What matters more? 2

These type of leaf blowers are expensive and they are certainly not an ideal choice to be used in households or other confined spaces because with up to 3000 CFM of air coming out of a leaf blower you can easily send debris flying dangerously at pets, people, cars and glass windows, potentially causing serious damage. Besides, these leaf blowers are not handheld models and they fall into a walk-behind category where you have the main unit resting on wheels. Now you can buy a walk-behind leaf blower with up to 3000 CFM but the MPH rating will still be around 300 MPH which gives you an idea that higher MPH is not necessarily equal to higher blowing capability. These types of leaf blowers are available in both electric and gas-powered options but the gas-powered variety is usually the more powerful between the two.

With the help of the above-mentioned guidelines, you should get an idea of how much CFM and MPH you need in a leaf blower. But if you want to hit the sweet spot of CFM rating you can go with a leaf blower that has at least 600 CFM with an MPH rating of around 180. A leaf blower around the 600 CFM range is not only going to be portable and easy to use but it will be able to handle a variety of tasks and can be used in tight spaces as well as a yard.   

What is the Newton force rating of a leaf blower?

 It can be confusing to interpret CFM and MPH ratings when buying a leaf blower. Not to mention that leaf blower manufacturers usually boast one rating while keeping the other hidden when advertising their products. Because of that, people end up looking at only one rating while ignoring the other.  For example, if a leaf blower has 200 MPH written on the package and CFM rating is not clearly mentioned, people are going to focus on the MPH rating while the CFM rating of the same leaf blower might be too low. Even if a leaf blower has both of the ratings mentioned clearly, you never know under what circumstances these ratings were measured.  A leaf blower is going to show a high CFM rating if the test is taken with the nozzle removed but in the real world scenario, it is the CFM with the nozzle attached that matters since we are not going to use a leaf blower without its nozzle attached.

Therefore to solve this confusion there is a third rating that combines both MPH and CFM ratings into one single rating known as Newton force. Newton force also called blowing force by some manufactures gives a very precise rating to a leaf blower. So the buyer can know exactly how powerful the leaf blower actually is. The higher the Newton force rating of a leaf blower, the more powerful it is going to be. The most powerful leaf blowers are going to have a Newton force rating of up to 40 and the lightweight handheld models should have a Newton force rating of 13. The best part about this rating is that it takes into factor the diameter of the leaf blowers nozzle, air pressure, and even the temperature, so you get the most accurate rating possible.

Other factors to consider when buying a leaf blower

The MPH and CFM ratings aren’t the only things you should be concerned about when shopping for a leaf blower. There are a few other things you have to keep in mind as well to make the correct buying decision. Some additional factors you should consider when buying a leaf blower are as follows:

Noise level of a leaf blower

Gas-powered leaf blowers especially the ones with a 2 stroke engine can be very noisy when being used. This is why some cities inside the US have banned gas-powered leaf blowers that exceed a certain noise level. So it is a good idea to make sure that you don’t end up buying a loud leaf blower if you live in an area where there is a noise level limit for leaf blowers. You can check online to know about the regulations regarding using noisy equipment for your area if you plan on buying a gas leaf blower.

Budget

While you would want to buy a leaf blower with the highest possible CFM and MPH rating, the higher these ratings are the more costly the leaf blower going to be. Therefore you should always set a fixed budget when buying a leaf blower and look for the highest-rated leaf blower within your designated budget.

Weight of the leaf blower

Bigger gas-powered leaf blowers can be too heavy to use, so make sure you get a leaf blower that you can easily handle and operate without hurting your arms.

Maintenance

Not all leaf blowers require the same amount of maintenance and if you don’t consider this factor before buying a unit you will end up with a leaf blower that requires a lot more maintenance than you have time for. A gas leaf blower might be very powerful but you have to regularly replace the engine oil, air filter and other small components such as spark plugs after regular intervals. While electric and cordless leaf blowers don’t require any time-consuming maintenance, they do require you to charge the battery regularly and use a leaf blower close to an electric power source.

Conclusion

You can’t lean towards either metric when picking a leaf blower since both MPH and CFM ratings go hand in hand to provide optimal performance. While we wouldn’t tell you to totally ignore the MPH rating of a leaf blower you do need to pay more attention to the CFM rating of a leaf blower as compared to the MPH rating. Because at the end of the day, it is the bulk of air that is going to push the debris not the fast-moving air. If you want to get an even better idea of a leaf blower’s performance you can always manually calculate the Newton force value of a leaf blower to know exactly how powerful a leaf blower is.